Before Semple Brown Design got to it, this downtown Denver loft in a former saddle factory counted as many minuses as it did plusses. Original exposed-brick walls and cast iron–clad timber pillars defined its 1,530 square feet of space, giving it the lived-in patina that makes lofts such a hot property type. But it only received sunlight from the north side of the building and contained little separation between its public and private spaces.

With the blessings of their Vail, Colo., clients, who use the loft as their city residence, project architect Dave Robb and his colleagues Kristen Sidell, Chris Craver, and Megan Hudacky engineered a transformational makeover. They divided the bedroom and bath corridor from the rest of the project with a series of translucent glass panels and sliding MDF doors. They also added a dropped, white-painted ceiling to the eastern half of the unit, hiding a new air conditioning system and providing a reflective surface for natural and artificial light. Bright yellow plastic laminate cabinetry, another light-enhancer, lines the dining room and kitchen. And Robb's experience in retail design helped him devise the back-lit, translucent-glass-and-aluminum shelving that illuminates both rooms. Other thoughtful touches crop up throughout the loft. In the entry, built-in storage cupboards and a compact bar area lend clarity to a previously featureless vestibule. A sliding door in the master bath can be closed to make an independent half bath for the privacy of family or friends staying in the den/guest bedroom. Every new move the architects made, though, balances an old element they left in place. “The idea was to create a new skin inside the rough space, mixing the old vocabulary with crisp materials,” says Robb.

Arnold Loft, Denver

architect/interior designer:
Semple Brown Design, Denver

general contractor:
Cherry Hills Home Improvement, Denver

project size:
1,530 square feet

construction cost:
$92 per square foot

Ron Pollard, except where noted